TEL AVIV – President Donald Trump came to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s defense Thursday as the latter waited on an announcement regarding whether he will be indicted on corruption charges, saying the Israeli premier was “tough, smart and strong.”
“I can say this, he’s done a great job as prime minister,” Trump said from Hanoi after a summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.
“He’s tough, smart and strong. He’s very defensive, his military has been built up a lot, they buy a lot of equipment from the United States, and they pay for it,” Trump said.
Addressing his as-yet unveiled peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians, he said the process has marked “the most difficult deal in the world. … I’d love to deliver that deal. We have a good shot at peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”
He also discussed his decision to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority and to the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA. “Why would we pay somebody that’s not saying nice things about us and not really wanting to go to the peace table?” Trump said.
“And they’ve been much better, and we’ll see what happens,” he added.
Israeli media reported that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit would announce his intention to charge Netanyahu with criminal offenses in the three cases facing him.
Mandelblit is expected to indict the prime minister for bribery, fraud and breach of trust in the so-called Case 4000, a corruption case involving the national phone company, Bezeq.
Netanyahu has denied all the accusations, saying the probes are a “witch hunt” on the part of the left, the media and the police.
Case 4000 involves Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq. The prime minister is accused of ordering that regulations on Bezeq be eased in return for the phone company’s chief shareholder Shaul Elovitch giving Netanyahu positive coverage on his news site Walla.
Case 1000 charges Netanyahu and his wife Sara with receiving illegal gifts from billionaire benefactors, including Israeli-born Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan and Australian businessman James Packer.
In Case 2000, Netanyahu is suspected of striking a deal with media mogul Arnon (Noni) Mozes whereby the premier would weaken the Sheldon Adelson-backed daily Israel Hayom in return for more favorable coverage in Mozes’ Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper. In his defense, Netanyahu said that he specifically voted against the law that would have weakened Israel Hayom, risking his political career in 2014 and calling new elections because of it.